Criterion’s announcement of new releases for May was a landslide of titles with a stunning nine new films joining the Collection and two blu-grades thrown in for good measure. It’s pretty impressive for a month without any titles including the name “Zatoichi.” And while Martin Scorsese’s World Cinema Project No. 2 is an amazing addition that includes titles by Edward Yang, Lino Brocka, and Apichatpong Weerasethakul, MMC! is most excited by the new edition of Yasujiro Ozu’s Good Morning (1959), a delightful film with a very dated DVD. Here’s hoping that Shochiku’s 4K restoration is as great an up-grade as Tatsuro Kiuchi’s new cover treatment!
MMC!‘s “Trailer Tuesdays” are the blogosphere’s most viewed posts. Period.
With that out of the way, let’s watch some trailers!
Rialto Pictures is promoting a new restoration of Julien Duvivier’s Panique (1946), a thriller about murder and betrayal that looks great in this re-release trailer. The Criterion Collection has already declared its appreciation of Duvivier (as has MMC!), so we should naturally be hopeful that a stacked Blu-ray for Panique might appear bearing a wacky “C.”
With the holiday season in mind, enjoy this short made for The Candid Eye documentary series recounting Christmas preparations in Montreal, Canada. The Days Before Christmas (Stanley Jackson, Wolf Koenig and Terence Macartney-Filgate, 1958) has everything you’d expect from the Christmas season and more – department store Santas and anxious children, choir practices, recitals, and Christmas pageants, holiday travellers and long-distance calls home, smoky nightclubs and lively jazz acts, cab drivers, traffic cops, and Brink’s guards with pistols drawn.
And to all those wonderful readers who arrive here regularly or stumble into MMC! accidentally, happy holidays and the best of the season to you! Enjoy yourselves, stay safe, and keep those titles in order of spine number!
Ted Parmelee’s beautifully decrepit adaptation of Edgar Allan Poe’s story is a wonder, full of decay and madness in the mid-century modernist animation style typical to UPA. The Tell-Tale Heart was the first cartoon to receive an X rating (compliments of the BBFC); garnered an Academy Award nomination for Animated Short; counts Leonard Maltin, Jerry Beck, and Guillermo del Toro among its admirers; and was admitted to the National Film Registry for preservation in 2001. James Mason’s narration and the film’s final, unexpected POV shot are remarkable.
(I probably should have saved this for October, but why deny ourselves this impressive film? It deserves to be better known.)
MMC! wraps up its review of the National Film Board of Canada with this penultimate post on the NFB’s first blockbuster, Royal Journey (David Barstow, Roger Blais, and Gudrun Parker, 1951). This 54-minute document of Princess Elizabeth and the Duke of Windsor’s monthlong visit across Canada and to Washington, D.C., is weighed down by some hokey narration, but it is a stunning record of the era, beautifully expressing the complex regionalism of Canada and standing as the first feature film shot on Kodak’s (then experimental) 35 mm Eastman colour film stock. Its presentation is full of newsreel immediacy, showing Canadian life, in nearly all its forms, in vibrant, shocking colour, yet the film is full of history and alludes to the young nation’s place in a larger geo-political context. And the short feature offers some fascinating moments in Canadiana, such Princess Elizabeth’s visit to the Winnipeg Ballet, an institution she would grant “Royal” status to less than 2 years later. (Admittedly, we Canadians are probably as weather-obsessed as the film would have you believe.) Royal Journey was a massive success for the NFB, seen by 350,000 people in its first week and 2 million people over the next 2 years, winning a BAFTA for Best Documentary in the process.
As per the NFB (with only some inaccuracies):
A documentary account of the five-week visit of Princess Elizabeth and the Duke of Windsor to Canada and the United States in the fall of 1951. Stops on the royal tour include Québec City, the National War Memorial in Ottawa, the Trenton Air Force Base in Toronto, a performance of the Royal Winnipeg Ballet in Regina and visits to Calgary and Edmonton. The royal train crosses the Rockies and makes stops in several small towns. The royal couple boards HCMS Crusader in Vancouver and watches native dances in Thunderbird Park, Victoria. They are then welcomed to the United States by President Truman. The remainder of the journey includes visits Montreal, the University of New Brunswick in Fredericton, a steel mill in Sydney, Nova Scotia and Portugal Cove, Newfoundland.
When Canadian ambitions toward high culture land on the third art rather than the fourth (sorry Glenn Gould!), attention is frequently given to the Group of Seven, a collection of Canadian landscape painters from the 1920s and ’30s that established a Canadian Modernist style and provided a distinctly Canadian aesthetic by which artists could interpret and interact with their national subject. Allan Wargon’s Varley (1953) provides something of an introduction to Frederick Varley, then 72 years old, two decades removed from the Group of Seven’s disbanding, living an impoverished life, and with his best years as an artist now well behind him. Wargon initially envisioned the film as a celebration of the painter “as a hero and a wise man,” but Varley rejected such a portrayal of himself in favour of a reworking by Wargon that approached the film as a psychological study. Without great interest from the National Film Board for a documentary on Frederick Varley, Wargon lacked the necessary budget for Ektachrome film stock until the Director of the National Gallery took pity on him and offered to make up the shortfall, thereby allowing the film to get made. Varley was the only member of the Group of Seven to specialize in portraiture and Wargon’s film seems to emphasize this work almost ahead of Varley’s more renowned landscapes. Wargon’s camera ruminates on the thick “Hot Mush” of the painted canvas and the rough, etched face of Varley, revealing the artist and his art as distorted and weathered in appearance, yet entirely noble in spirit.
Those looking for more on Allan Wargon and Varley should head to the filmmaker’s highly informative blog.
As per the NFB:
This short documentary is a portrait of Frederick Varley, Canadian painter and member of the Group of Seven. In the film, Varley returns to his studio in Toronto after a sketching trip. The camera moves about the studio selecting examples of his canvases and watches him as he begins a new painting.